Van conversion: Lifestyle boom – ‘someone flew from Canada to Portugal to pick up a sink’

Campervans: UK’s ‘Coolest Campers’ discuss van conversion

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Van conversions have become incredibly popular, and Britons up and down the country are joining van life, either for the holidays or as a full-time lifestyle. Vicki, Stu and Ella the dog have a self-built campervan, Fleur, a 2010 Citroen Relay they bought in 2014 as a bare panel van.

They don’t live full time in the van but spend as much time as possible travelling in it.

Vicki, Stu and Ella are some of the “van lifers” featured in Alex Waite’s book.

Alex, who has van lifer friends, was attracted to the creativity surrounding van conversions.

She said: “I was looking at pictures [of her friend Charlie’s conversion] and thought ‘has anyone celebrated how interesting and creative the people doing this are?’”

Followed a lot of “Instagram stalking” and an immersion into van life and its community.

READ MORE: ‘Delightful’ beach named best in the UK – ‘good old-fashioned seaside’

Van life has never been more popular, with a 200 percent increase in searches for vanlife in the past three years.

“It’s exploded.

“A big part of it at the moment is the Covid pandemic, making people re-evaluate their lives and their priorities.

“And because it may have impacted people economically, they’re also looking at ways to have more while spending less.

“A van is a different way to save money, especially for people who aren’t able to buy houses, because they can’t afford it.

“Vans are a way to own your home for a bit less money and making it your own.”

Vicki and Stu may not use their vans as an alternative home, but their conversion was still budget-conscious.

They bought Fleur for £6,500 “when she was a four-year-old panel van with 95,000 miles on the clock”.

So far, they estimate having spent £4,000 on the conversion, with their biggest expense the LPG heating system.

With some DIY, they managed to keep the costs down.

They rescued a chest of drawers from being thrown out by someone and used discarded pallet wood from a local warehouse.

Alex said there was a wide range of budget and money approach to a van conversion.

“Some people save up the money they plan to use for the entire thing before they get started.

“Some people get an opportunity to buy the vehicle and then just kind of see how it goes from there and do each bit as they’re able to.

“Obviously there are ways to get stuff for a bit cheaper.

“I know people who look for second hand stoves and sinks, and people find a lot of things on freecycle and gumtree.

“Finding something for a bargain is always fun.

“But I also know someone who flew from Canada to Portugal to pick up a sink.”

Vanlifers: Beautiful conversions for life on the road by The History Press is out now.
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